Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
October 28, 2011

I Was Wrong: Turkey Is Still Plotting Against Syria

Time to eat some craw. It seems that I have been wrong with this analysis:

That lets me believe that Turkey has now accepted that a conflict with Syria (and Iran) is not in its interest.

Instead Turkey is escalated the conflict with Syria:

Once one of Syria’s closest allies, Turkey is hosting an armed opposition group waging an insurgency against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, providing shelter to the commander and dozens of members of the group, the Free Syrian Army, and allowing them to orchestrate attacks across the border from inside a camp guarded by the Turkish military.
On Wednesday, the group, living in a heavily guarded refugee camp in Turkey, claimed responsibility for killing nine Syrian soldiers, including one uniformed officer, in an attack in restive central Syria.
The interview was held in the office of a local government official, and Colonel As’aad arrived protected by a contingent of 10 heavily armed Turkish soldiers, including one sniper.

To allow such a terrorist group to have official shelter and protection in Turkey is near to an outright declaration of war. on Syria

Syria (and Iran) can not allow such outside terrorist group to fester. If Bashir Assad wants to keep the backing of his army, he has to respond to the killing of its officers and soldiers and the response has to be towards Turkey.

The Turkish foreign minister Davutoğlu, who once was so proud of his zero problems with neighbors policy, now sounds quite different:

“We clearly see Assad is no more capable of orchestrating the process [of democratization],” Davutoğlu was quoted as saying by the Bugün daily on Wednesday, as he repeated his take on the Syrian issue as a struggle already lost by Assad, who “refused to lend an ear to what Turkey had to say and walked away from his promises every time.”

He is wrong in that analysis. Over the last days very large pro-Assad rallies took place in Damaskus, Aleppo and Lattakia. Assad is far from falling. Even the NYT has to admit that:

[W]ith mass pro-government rallies and a crackdown that has, for now, stanched the momentum of antigovernment demonstrations, the Syrian government appears in a stronger position than it did this summer.

Syria and Iran can still play the Kurdish card and unleash the PKK. Davutoğlu does not believe this will  happen:

Davutoğlu ruled out fears that Syria may go back to its policy of mobilizing PKK forces to terrorize Turkey in the face of the fallen alliance between the two countries, telling the Yeni Şafak daily that “Syria should not even think about doing that, based on previous experience.” “Everyone knows where that road leads.”

Davutoğlu is again flawed. Deterance does not work if the opposite side has no good alternative. If the only alternative for Assad and his followers is to go down, or to take "that road", I believe "that road" will be taken.

As Turkey is now openly supporting terrorism against Syria, it can not expect the other side to refrain from such measures.

Posted by b on October 28, 2011 at 8:59 UTC | Permalink


I have a real hard time understanding the behaviour of Turkey in the past few months: the U-turn on Libya, lip service to the Palestinians, that radar thing, then this openly harbouring of armed opposition to a neighbouring country. All those acts are in blatant contradiction with the past 4-5 years of Turkish foreign policy.

Worrying times.

Posted by: Philippe | Oct 28 2011 9:47 utc | 1

I think you were right the first time, b.
Muslim Turkey is a square peg in a round NATO hole - a token Christian hole. I'm not surprised NATO believes its own hogwash but the rest of us should be more circumspect.
Whose interests would a Turkey-Syria conflict serve?
Certainly not Turkey's, Syria's or Islam's, imo.
If the Turks want to stay in NATO until a time of their own choosing, hosting some artificial Syrian 'patriots' created by Western spooks should be more than enough to keep NATO's fantasists asleep at the wheel.

I thought Turks providing Syrian 'rebels' with armed escorts while they're sneaking around in Turkey was a brilliant two-for. It helps NATO to think Turkey is an obedient lap-dog and it gives the Turks an excuse to keep an eye, and tabs, on the 'rebels' 24/7, and deprives them of any opportunity to indulge in skulduggery while free-loading on Turkish hospitality.

The West has always been good at underestimating Turkey. The Turks don't mind because Turks always know what they're doing - and why. That magnificent triumph of style over substance known as NATO, on the other hand, is never quite sure why it gets out of bed in the morning - unless it's to look for another inconsequential failed state to elevate to (token) NATO membership.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Oct 28 2011 10:21 utc | 2

Turkey feels emboldened now that they believe the West has Iran and Syria against the wall. They can take chances they couldn't have taken just ten years prior. It could be part of the lure strategy I spoke of in earlier threads. Create numerous provocations inside and outside of the targeted countries in the hope of ensnaring them. We'll see if Iran and Syria take the bait.

Posted by: Morocco Bama | Oct 28 2011 10:58 utc | 3

I would not think that far, they are politicians, Turkey is democratic, they think popular vote, and their popular vote is Islamist.


Posted by: somebody | Oct 28 2011 12:11 utc | 4

Interesting post. One small nit to pick however, is that this would not mean that Turkey is support 'terrorism against Syria' as this rebel group does not really meet the most widely accepted definition of terrorism (unless you are Israel or the US, then terrorists are just people you dont like very much...)

I will echo the comments of a few of the other participants that I am having a hard time understanding what Turkey is up to. Instigating a conflict with Syria (and Iran) doesnt seem to have any strategic or domestic political value. Whats with them these days?

Posted by: Base | Oct 28 2011 12:28 utc | 5

Base, I suggest they have the very real problem of Syrian people fleeing across the border.
Now, they can be friendly to them or unfriendly. How would you advise?
The AKP is the small to medium enterprise business class. Where do you think the money is? To remain neutral is not an option as that pisses all parties off.

Posted by: somebody | Oct 28 2011 13:41 utc | 6

It's very hard to tell what the Turks want. I can't imagine they want the break up of the Syrian state and yet another autonomous Kurdish region right next to Iraq's. But then again, maybe they feel they can prevent that if they are the ones doing he invading rather than the US in Iraq.

If so, Davutuglu's confidence about Syria refraining from backing the PKK could very well mean that he is HOPING they in order to give Turkey an excuse for war. Syria is not a match for Turkey in conventional terms, especially since the latter will have full NATO backing.

Most likely, Turkey is just playing both sides of the fence and keeping their real intentions hidden from everyone. This way they can keep NATO sweet and at the same time apply pressure on Assad for concessions.

Posted by: Lysander | Oct 28 2011 13:44 utc | 7

Here's M K Bhadrakumar's contribution to the confusion over Turkey.
A Pakistani Erdogan in the making?

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Oct 28 2011 13:54 utc | 8

#8 Interesting point in that article about the US learning how to deal with Islamists. Does this mean we may see a subtle shift from the Islamophobes?

Posted by: dh | Oct 28 2011 15:34 utc | 9

Russsia is selling its most anti-aircraft warfare system to Iran.

Posted by: nikon | Oct 28 2011 15:51 utc | 10

most advanced

Posted by: nikon | Oct 28 2011 15:52 utc | 11

at the point NATO leaves everybody else is going to jump ...

Posted by: somebody | Oct 28 2011 16:39 utc | 12


So I guess I ignored the NATO angle. Given that the Russians and Chinese learned that they cant support UN R2P initiatives from the Libyan debacle, perhaps is attempting help NATO get into Syria by getting Syria to attack them so NATO can move in claiming Collective Defense.

Either way I would assume that Iran is pretty irate about this. It can't bode well for Turkish-Iranian relations. This seems awfully risky for Turkey. Again, the upside still seems unclear.

Posted by: Base | Oct 28 2011 16:43 utc | 13

If one skims this MKB article at Asia Times in conjunction with his rediff article @ #8, it can be seen that Turkey's role in whatever US-NATO wishes was happening in the world is far from cut and dried.
US Sows Discord in South Asia

According to MKB, Pakistan (Turkey's new best friend) is cosying up to Iran (a sworn ally of Syria). There's other interesting stuff in the article - none of it good for America.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Oct 28 2011 18:11 utc | 14

Base, I think you're right about activating the NATO clause. The problem from Syria's POV is that tgey can't avoid that outcome by avoiding the PKK. Turkey can just accuse them. If NATO wants to intervene, they won't ask for evidence.

Sadly, Turkey's motive could be purely imperial. They want to reorder Syria in there favor. You can't expect the Iraq experience to dissuade them. I'm sure they are convinced thst they are different. That they will be greated as liberators etc.

And they will play the sectarian angle of Sunni vs Alawite.

On the plus side, they may understand that Syria and Iran can set the whole region on fire and think better of it. Personally, I still think Turkey wants to talk a big game, have leverage over everyone and not actully do anything. But I can't be sure of it.

Posted by: lysander | Oct 28 2011 19:00 utc | 15

Also, Turkey could be hoping just to keep the uprising/protests going by giving false hope of foreign assistance. That could cause more defections from the army and possibly cause the regime to crack. And if not, them no great loss. For Turkey.

Posted by: lysander | Oct 28 2011 19:13 utc | 16

Told ya so.

Posted by: masoud | Oct 29 2011 2:56 utc | 17

I wonder how useful, or important, it is for a blogger to admit he or she 'was wrong'?
This site is a nice place to come to ventilate competing guesses about all kinds of stuff - based on often-unreliable sources and info.
In that environment, if someone was right all the time it would piss everyone off.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Oct 29 2011 4:49 utc | 18 and ventilate

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Oct 29 2011 5:13 utc | 19


if i was a betting man, & i followed horses & you were my counsel, for the most part you know the horse, you know the race, & sometimes you write about horses & races we do not know about


Posted by: remembereringgiap | Oct 29 2011 14:58 utc | 20

more suicide bombings against turkey

Posted by: nikon | Oct 29 2011 16:03 utc | 21

Thinking back to my comment # 15 it occurs to me that if Turkey wanted to pick a fight with Syria, the attack on the Turkish soldiers last week would have been the perfect excuse. They could have blamed Syria (doesn't seem to matter if Syria actually did anything. A Turkish accusation could (would?) have been parroted in western Media as if it were true.

Also, I do not think the West fully trusts Turkey. A Turkey in control of Syria could grow too powerful for their tastes. It is often the case in a criminal conspiracy that the criminals do not trust each other.

The more I think of it, the more it sounds like Turkey is posturing for the Anti-Assad people in Turkey and the Arab world, as well as for NATO. Just like they postured after the Mavi Marmara massacre.

Posted by: Lysander | Oct 29 2011 16:26 utc | 22

Good to see others are wondering about this just as I am.

via FLC Turkey is playing with fire

Now, rather suddenly, a Foreign Ministry official appears with a Syrian colonel who announces to the world that the Free Syrian Army has already attacked Assad’s forces inside Syria and needs better weapons in order to continue the effort.

This looks to me like a puzzle with missing pieces. Have the Syrians been allowing Kurds to attack inside Turkey? I can’t find indication of that in the press, but it would not be surprising, and might well prompt a response in kind. Or are the Turks just using the means at their disposal? Will Syria also respond in kind, raiding Syrian refugee camps across the border inside Turkey? Or, if they haven’t already, allowing Kurds to attack Turkish forces?

Whatever is going on, it is dangerous. The protesters’ umbrella group, the Syrian National Council, has so far opted not to use violence. The emergence of a separate group prepared to do so from outside the country puts peaceful protesters at even greater risk than they have been so far, and hurts the prospects for maintaining their unity.

Posted by: b | Oct 29 2011 19:04 utc | 23

This is subtly related: Iraq's Kurdish leader, Iran declare border rebel issue 'over'

TEHRAN - Iran's foreign minister and head of the autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq declared on Saturday the issue of a Kurdish rebel group which has been launching attacks against the Islamic republic from its rear bases in Iraq was "over."
"With the good management of Mr Barzani, we were able to handle the issue of the PJAK terrorist group and currently our borders with the Kurdistan region of Iraq is secure," Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi was quoted as saying by Iran's state-run television website.

"Mr Barzani vowed to have the best borders from now on so people can travel easily and not be subject to any insecurity.... We consider this issue to be over," Salehi added.

The state broadcaster's website also quoted Barzani as saying: "The issue of PJAK terrorist group is over and we hope to witness complete security in our borders."

Iran has in the past accused Barzani's autonomous Kurdistan region of providing the PJAK with a safe haven along the border.

So Iran(, Syria) and the Kurds have, for now, made up. Guess who will now be a common "enemy" ...

There was a suicide bombing today in eastern Turkey against the Turkish security forces.

This was quite predictable. Who made the Turks run into this trap?

Posted by: b | Oct 29 2011 19:16 utc | 24

It seems to me that, if this is indeed happening, the Turks fully expect and even are counting on this response.

Posted by: Base | Oct 29 2011 20:49 utc | 25

there is also this

"The West is hijacking Arab revolutions to the benefit of Islamists

By Raghida Dergham"

Dar al Hayat is a Saudi paper

I am sure that is what "the West" is trying to do. The complexities of Islam will bite back.

Posted by: somebody | Oct 30 2011 8:21 utc | 27

and also - just to remember - this is the February 17 Libyan "revolutionaries" name themselves for

"Ten die in Libya cartoon clash
Car burning near Italian consulate
The consulate is the first Italian interest to be targeted
At least 10 people have been killed and several injured in Libya in clashes during a protest outside an Italian consulate, according to police."

Posted by: somebody | Oct 30 2011 10:25 utc | 28

The complexities of Islam will bite back.

The complexities of Islam will bite anything that moves, including its own adherents. Like any religion, it is riddled with contradictions, and the devil is in the various interpretations of fabrications. Religion is a powerful tool, and we cannot socially evolve with it firmly in place.

Posted by: Morocco Bama | Oct 30 2011 13:07 utc | 29

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